If you often charge your phone at night while you’re asleep or leave your device on your bed while it’s charging, here’s something that might convince you to change your habits: A teenager in Vietnam was allegedly electrocuted by a frayed phone charging cable, which she reportedly may have rolled on top of while sleeping. It’s a sobering reminder that phone safety is a serious issue; a few extra precautions could be all that separates us from disaster.
According to a report from Vietnamese news site An Ninh Tien Te, or ANTT (via Google Translate), a 14-year-old girl was found unconscious in bed on Nov. 12; her family took her to the hospital, but attempts to revive her were unsuccessful. Vietnamese daily newspaper Thanh Nien (via Google Translate) confirmed the incident with police in the Huong Son district of the province Ha Tinh. According to both ANTT and Thanh Nien, police initially identified the cause of death as electrocution, although the cause of the incident itself is still being investigated.
Police at the scene reportedly found a white phone charger with a torn and blackened wire; in an image published on ANTT, the cord appears to have been repaired in a makeshift fashion with some tape. According to the Independent, it's believed that the girl may have rolled onto the frayed cord while she was sleeping and was subsequently electrocuted; however, this theory hasn’t yet been proven.
Previous incidents highlighting the dangers of faulty phone cables have been reported all over the world. In July of 2017, a 14-year-old girl in Lovington, New Mexico was found unresponsive in the bathtub of her family home; her phone, which was plugged into the wall, had reportedly fallen into the tub, and there was a burn on her hand. A cause of death has not yet been released, but shortly after the incident, a news release from authorities performing the investigation said that “initial evidence shows signs consistent with electrocution,” reported the Washington Post.
Additionally, in November of 2016, a family in Wales suffered a devastating house fire that reportedly may have been caused by a mobile phone’s battery overheating, possibly due to how it was being charged at the time, according to the BBC. The BBC had also previously reported in 2014 on a family of five in Sheffield in the UK who were killed in a house fire that reportedly might have been sparked by a faulty phone charger.
And in April of 2017, Canada’s Global News reported on Amanda Lapidus, who woke one morning in March to find that her tablet, which she had left charging in the night, was extremely hot to the touch. Upon further investigation, she discovered that the end of the charging cable was melting. She unplugged the device and cable before anything worse happened, but it’s still a cautionary tale.
This isn’t to say that all mobile phone chargers are putting us in terrible danger every time we charge our devices — but it is worth paying attention to a few safety tips. In light of many of these incidents, experts recommend not leaving your phone or other mobile devices plugged in and unattended (including overnight when you’re sleeping), and only charging them on hard, flat surfaces (not physically resting on your bed). Additionally, reports the BBC, “the biggest risk posed by chargers is the availability of cheap generic options online” — so although you might be able to get less expensive chargers through online marketplaces and auction sites, be wary of ones that only cost a buck or two. They might not be able to withstand the actual act of charging.
Stay safe, everyone.